Album Review: Jarrett Purdy — ‘Motion & Stillness’

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Garrett Purdy is a pianist, a composer and a recent graduate of the University of Iowa’s School of Music (and through the end of July, he’s an intern at Hancher Auditorium, where I am on staff). His debut album, Motion & Stillness, is entirely made up of his jazz compositions, and it was recorded in Voxman Music Building on the UI campus over two days in mid-January.

The record highlights Purdy’s gifts as a musician and composer while also bringing to the fore the talents of five other area musicians: Blake Shaw (a leader in his own right) on bass, Chris Jensen on drums, Nolan Schroeder and Jim Buenning on reeds and Joey Schnoebelen on trumpet and flugelhorn.

Though Purdy lays out a fairly high concept in his brief liner notes, notions of motion and stillness were not necessarily part of my listening experience — except, perhaps, during “Motion” and “Stillness,” which arrive back to back in the fourth and fifth slots. But a theme that is more apparent to the composer than to the listener is not necessarily the sign of an unsuccessful record. Thematic intent aside, Motion & Stillness succeeds as solid jazz engagingly performed.

Purdy is a generous leader — arguably too generous, by which I mean I would have liked for him to stretch out on solos more than he does. Indeed, as he takes the opening of “What Matters Most,” the lovely closing number which begins with just his piano, I found myself hoping his might be the only voice on the track.

Throughout the record, he leaves ample room for his mates to take inventive solos. But it is the fully composed moments that most impressed me. For example, a Philip Glass-esque setting provides a background for an engaging melody as “Emerald Lake” opens.

I was also struck by the underpinnings of “Quicksilver,” the funkiest tune on Motion & Stillness, which provide plenty of space for expressive, rough-around-the-edges soloing. The track, more than any other, sounds as though it’s being performed live in a club; I expected the sound of applause as it came to an end.

Certainly, the whole of Motion & Stillness is worthy of applause and marks a strong, creative debut.

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 268.

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